UNITED NATIONS — The United States on Thursday welcomed Qatar's decision to take down a sign that cast the Taliban's new office in Doha as a rival Afghan embassy saying the militant group can't represent itself "as an emirate, government or sovereign."
The Taliban held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday in which they hoisted their flag and a banner with the name they used while in power more than a decade ago: "Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo told the U.N. Security Council Thursday the United States does not recognize that name and is "pleased that Qatar has clarified that the name of the office is the Political Office of the Afghan Taliban, and has had the sign with the incorrect name in front of the door taken down."
The Taliban move angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai who suspended security negotiations with the U.S. and scuttled a peace delegation to the Taliban on Wednesday. An Afghan government spokesman said Thursday that Karzai is now willing to join planned peace talks with the Taliban – provided that the Taliban flag and nameplate are removed from the Doha office and he receives a formal letter from the United States supporting the Afghan government.
Afghanistan's U.N. Ambassador Zahir Tanin told the council that the Taliban's "rather theatrical" inauguration of the Doha office contradicted the principles under which it was established – namely that it would be a venue for direct negotiations, that it would not serve as a Taliban "government, embassy, emirate or sovereign," and that it would not engage in or support terrorism or violence.
"Raising the Taliban flag on Tuesday in Doha was just a reminder of a dark and bloody past from which our country still struggles to emerge," Tanin said. "The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sole sovereign and legitimate authority chosen by Afghan people and recognized and supported by the international community."
Tanin said the public statement by the Taliban representative in Doha went "against the very spirit of peace" because it lacked a clear commitment to peace talks with the Afghan High Peace Council and made an explicit reference to the continuation of violence.
DiCarlo recalled that Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama called on Qatar in January to facilitate an office "for the purposes of negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban."
"The United States supports the opening of the Political Office of the Afghan Taliban for this purpose," DiCarlo said. "We have underscored that the office must not be treated as, or represent itself as, an embassy or other office representing the Afghan Taliban as an emirate, government or sovereign."
DiCarlo said that "while there may be bumps in the road, the fact that the parties have an opportunity to talk and discuss Afghanistan's future is very important."
Under Taliban rule, girls were barred from school and women were barred from many jobs. Di Carlo said that the United States "will continue to stand strongly with Afghan women to protect and advance their hard-won gains," including the right to education and jobs, since the Taliban was ousted.